Serbian Foreign Policy: Vucic’s Balance Policy

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The Balkan states are ethnically rather rich and heterogeneous states. This feature shows how rich the culture in the region is. However, this is not the only yield of this feature. Undoubtedly, this demographic structure has advantages as well as some disadvantages. Peoples spread across different states not only disrupt the political stability of the states in the region, but also cause various pressures to their sovereignty from time to time. Since the past, Serbian elements have had significant influence in the region. Looking at today, it is understood that this effect has increased. With the Russia-Ukraine War, various tensions were experienced between the states and the international system was questioned. It is seen that the Balkans were affected by this conjuncture due to the Serbs.

Looking at the historical heritage, the influence of Russian elements in the region cannot be ignored. As a matter of fact, it is clear that she was worried about the sovereignties of the states in the Balkans after the war. And yet, it is quite normal for the tension to reflect on diplomacy. The use of discourses expressing the dream of a “Greater Serbia” in the region where Serbian nationalism is relatively effective increases the dose of tension. In this regard, especially the statements of Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik create a negative public opinion towards Serbs and raise concern to peaceful solutions.[1]

Although the influence of the European Union (EU) in the region is high, Russian influence is also undeniable. In particular, Croatian President Zoran Milanović’s statement that Kosovo was stolen from Serbia and that Russia has been provoked since 2014 reveals the Russian influence in the region despite the EU.[2]

However, lately, it has been observed that the United States (USA) and the EU do not want any confusion in the region in line with their common interests, and therefore do not hesitate to put pressure on the parties in any tension that may arise. Because these two major actors, who want to follow a holistic path in their security strategies and foreign policies, do not want Russia to expand its ground of action due to various problems.

These two actors, showing that their priority is peaceful solutions, have also shown that they can apply coercive diplomacy when necessary. While the parties want to resolve the frozen conflict and non-recognition problem between Kosovo and Serbia peacefully; reminding the consequences that will arise if Kosovo does not approach the proposed solution reveals these pressures.[3]

Kosovo, on the other hand, has a negative approach to the process, as it wants the removal of Serbian assets in the north of the country and the surrender of acquired weapons. However, pressures in question are not only directed against Kosovo. The USA and EU, acting in a manner of superior authority, express that if the solutions put forward for the normalization of relations are rejected, the parties must bear the consequences.[4]

The USA, one of the main actors working to ensure political stability in the region, is taking important steps with the support of the EU. Starting on the statements of the authorities, it is understood that the USA advocated the Association of Serbian Municipalities for the resolution of tensions.[5] In this context, in order to prevent problems that may arise from differences, it brings together both civil and political leaders and develops various dialogues.[6]

Although there are various motivations for the solution of the problems, Belgrade’s problems are not only with Pristina. As a matter of fact, Dodik’s statements also raise various concerns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the problems are tried to be solved within the diplomatic borders under the leadership of the USA, the Sarajevo administration believes that the Serbians’ policies towards the country overshadow its sovereignty. That’s why it is holding various talks with the USA.[7] The statements of the authorities can be interpreted as the dialogue process will gain momentum in the future and accordingly the influence of the USA, which acts as an arbitrator, will expand.

As can be seen, Serbia has taken various steps to get rid of political loneliness. In this direction, Serbia has tried to show that it wants to improve its relations with North Macedonia through regional partnerships. Thus, it is possible to state that Belgrade aims to break the international public opinion against the Serbs.[8] Serbia has also agreed with Croatia on the steps to be taken in bilateral relations in order to prevent the emergence of open problems arising from differences and to reduce the current crises.[9]

It can be said that the dialogues in question are the moves of Serbia as a sovereign state to emphasize peace and cooperation. In addition, the statements regarding Sarajevo show that Belgrade is open to cooperation and will respect the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the framework of good neighborly relations.[10] It is possible to say that the driving force for all these is to reduce the severity of the pressures against Serbia.

Vucic could not stand it any longer, as the USA and the EU increased its pressure day by day. As a matter of fact, it is understood that Vucic turned to more moderate policies and avoided sharp lines in order to prevent political and economic sanctions to be applied against her country.

Considering the opportunities provided by the EU to the country, it can be argued that Vucic could not turn her back on them. This attitude of Vucic is interpreted by Christopher Hill as Serbia’s turning to the west.[11]

Vucic, who wanted to end the tensions with the least damage, could not show more resistance to the EU’s sanctions pressure against Russia when Kosovo’s admission to NATO came to the agenda. However, instead of revealing the desired reaction, he preferred to make a strategic statement. Serbian leader respects Russian President Vladimir Putin; but he stated that the only country he served was Serbia.[12]

In line with all this information, a public opinion has emerged that relations with Russia will deteriorate. However, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitri Peskov’s statement that he understands the pressures on the country and that they hope to further develop relations between the parties shows the opposite of these expectations.[13] Accordingly, the deterioration of relations on the Belgrade-Moscow line is not expected.

As a result, it is possible to say that the pressures of the USA and the EU on Serbia are working. The point that should be underlined here is that Vucic has followed a successful balance policy. While this attitude adopted by Belgrade is expected to reduce the pressures; it will also provide Serbia with new maneuvering areas.

[1] “Dodik, Kosova ile İlgili Açıklamalarıyla Vučić’in İşini Daha da Zorlaştırıyor”, Vijesti N1,, (Date of Accession: 29.01.2023).

[2] “Milanović: Kosova Sırbistan’dan Çıkarıldı, Şimdi Ruslar da Aynısını Yapıyor”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

[3] “Kosova İçin Avrupa Planını Kabul Etmemenin Sonuçlarına İlişkin Uyarılar”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[4] “ZSO Hakkında Kurti: Kosova Anayasasına Aykırı Tek Etnikli Bir Topluluk Oluşumu”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 27.01.2023).

[5] “ABD Büyükelçiliği: Kurti ve Osmani, ZSO’nun Oluşumuna İlişkin Tartışmaya Katıldıklarını Doğruladı”, T.anjug,, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

[6] “ABD, Tartışmalı Kosova Sırp Belediye Organı Üzerinde ‘Yapıcı’ Müzakerelere Ev Sahipliği Yapıyor”, Balkan Insight,, (Date of Accession: 31.01.2023).

[7] “BH’ye Yönelik Sırp Politikası “Tüm Sırplar Tek Devlette” mi?”, Sarajevo Times,, (Date of Accession: 31.01.2023).

[8] “Bakan Vučević’in Kuzey Makedonya Cumhuriyeti Başbakanı Kovačevski ile Görüşmesi”, T.anjug,, (Date of Accession: 29.01.2023).

[9] “Dačić ve Glić Radman: Sırbistan ve Hırvatistan’ın Tutumlarındaki Farklılıkları Azaltmak Önemlidir.”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 28.01.2023).

[10] “Schmidt: Sırbistan, Bosna-Hersek ile İyi Komşuluk İlişkileri Geliştirmeye Açık”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 01.02.2023).

[11] “Hill: Sırbistan Batı’yı Tercih Etti, Rusya ile Bağ Her Geçen Gün Zayıflıyor”, T.anjug,, (Date of Accession: 01.02.2023).

[12] “Vuciç: Kosova’nın NATO’ya Kabul Edilmesi Gibi Bir Fikir Var”, Slobodenpecat,, (Date of Accession: 02.02.2023).

[13] “Kremlin, Vučić’in Sırbistan’ın Rusya’ya Yaptırım Uygulamak Zorunda Kalabileceği Yönündeki Açıklamasına Yorum Yaptı”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).